I used to have 1000 watts of flexible solar panels on my Sprinter van. Check this post to see the old panels. I replaced them with 3 LG LG315N1C-G4 315 watt solar panels. I now have a 945 watt array instead of 1,000 watts.
The cheapest price I could find for the new panels were at Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. These are monocrystalline panels with an all black frame. So they stand out a little less than the aluminum colored frames. I decided on these mainly because the dimensions were exactly what I wanted. They fit perfectly in the roof rack I purchased and allowed me to utilize nearly all the space I have while still being compatible with my current charger and the existing wires I have running to the roof.
I mounted them on a VanTech roof rack I bought from amazon. I order two of the 2-bar racks. They also have a a 3-bar rack. They come in different colors and you have the option of steel or aluminum. I was very impressed with this rack. Some of the other brands had bad reviews about not being able to lock tight to the sprinter, but this rack feels like part of the sprinter once it’s mounted. If you push on them once they’re mounted, the whole van will rock. The black color worked well with the black frame solar panels. The width is a perfect match for the panels.
To attach the panels to the frame I used flat T-plates and extended the “T” portion by about a foot with aluminum flat bar. At the front, I just used 6 flat brackets. I painted all the brackets black to blend in with everything else. Everything is screwed together with stainless steel screws and lock washers.
I wired the three panels in series using two of the existing wires running up to the roof. The other black wire was used to ground the frame of the panels and the ladder rack. Each panel frame is bridged with a short piece of wire attached the screws. I didn’t have to worry about grounding with the previous panels because they didn’t have metal.
Why did I get rid of the flexible panels?
- I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the overhang of the old panels. Over time it they started to warp more at the edges. Even though I wasn’t happy with the overhang, I was too concerned with the stealth factor of flexible solar panels. I actually feel like this is more stealthy now. I should have done it this way the first time, but lesson learned.
- The VHB tape works extremely well with the painted metal, but I don’t think it bonded as well to the plastic of the panels. In fact, I still can’t get the tape off the van without ruining the paint. I was tired of worrying about them coming off in high winds.
- These panels will last much longer than the flexible solar panels. There is even a 12 year warranty with them.
- The flexible panels were constantly getting scuffed up and probably reducing the efficiency. The glass will hold up much better.
- The way I had to mount the flexible panels didn’t allow me to trouble shoot them or access any of the connections. Replacing a single panel would have been a nightmare. This way, I can easily test individual panels and replace them.
I’m very happy with these solar panels and the way I mounted them.
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